Happy One year in Atlanta!

Wow. It’s a year to the day since we stepped foot on American soil and started our new life in Atlanta and what a year it has been! This time last year I was sitting on the plane after saying a very tearful goodbye to Ma and Pa Cook and wondering what lay ahead (and more importantly if they’d actually let me into the country – remember the Big V?) and now I’m a married lady about to embark upon her second year as an expat! Wowzers!

Officially an expat with that stamp!

Officially an expat with that stamp!

I’m not going to lie, packing up our lives and starting a new one in a different country was blummin daunting (well, maybe not so much for the German – he’d done it before!) watching everything go into boxes, knowing the next time I saw it would be in America!! America!! I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that I live here! I really should work on that – I’m technically not a ‘new’ expat anymore! I haven’t ‘just’ moved here, I’m not ‘fresh off the plane’ anymore!

So what has the past 12 months been like? 3 words will cover that – THE BEST EVER!! Yep, it’s been a year of adventure, new experiences and adjustment, excitement, exploring and change and a lot of fun times along the way! So much has happened! There’s no way I’m going to fit it all into this post!

So, after weeks of trawling furniture shops we made a home that happily welcomed a lot of visitors, we made some amazing new friends – something that will only continue the longer we stay here, we survived the pollen attack and the big scary bugs, survived our first Hotlanta summer by the pool, we got engaged (definitely didn’t see that one coming!) and then went to the beach and got married within 3 weeks! (You can read more about that here!) If you’d have asked me this time last year if I would be married within 12 months (well actually it was 5!) I would have laughed in your face and the words ‘I won’t even be engaged’ would probably have come out of my mouth! The German definitely shocked me there!

And then there was the exploring! Being an expat means there’s a whole new world at your fingertips – a never-ending list of places to explore and, me being me, I obviously want to explore all of them!! In 12 months we scouted out some fab places in Georgia (Helen, Stone Mountain, Downtown Atlanta, Blue Ridge, Lake Lanier to name just a few!), immersed ourselves into American life (heading to a Braves game, a Hawks game, some Final Four Madness and Independence Day) and took a road trip to Florida (where we checked out Miami, Clearwater, the Florida Keys and the Everglades).

There’s the food, oh the beautiful food! We’ve definitely attempted to try every little bit on offer (our waistlines can vouch for that!) and done our bit to make sure these expats experience as much American food as possible! There’s the ribs, the burgers, the mac and cheese, the fried chicken, the biscuits and gravy, the sandwiches the size of a house, the tacos, the pizza, the queso, the list is endless!! We’ve been to so many new places in the last 12 months and we still haven’t made a dint in the amount of places we want to try! I’m already excited for the next 12 months of food  based goodness! I think I might have to increase my trips to the gym though!

We’ve had to make some adjustments though to make sure expat life runs smoothly! The first day I was left on my own I was faced with a tornado warning – something I’m definitely not used to at home! I took it all in my stride though, well technically I ignored it! probably not the best way to deal with it but hey it worked for me! Then there’s adjustments like making time at the weekend to FaceTime family back home because the time difference means we can’t do it during the week because of work (well I can, the Geman can’t!) that means before we go anywhere on a Sunday we call Ma and Pa Richter back in Germany. You also make more of a conscious effort to keep in touch with people back home – they’re you’re lifeline when you’re feeling a little low and the fact that it’s so easy to communicate with them now (FaceTime, Skype, iMessage, WhatsApp, e-mail, text message) makes you feel a lot closer to home. I really don’t think I would have settled in as quickly as I did if I didn’t have those tools at my fingertips!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all been plain sailing and a barrell of laughs everyday. We’re not on holiday, the German trots off to work everyday, I attempt to find work and write this beauty and, some days, just like everyone else, we have days when things aren’t all happy and jolly! Then there’s the lack of family and friends around you. Some days you’re fine, others you suddenly get a pang of homesickness and you just wish you could pop round to see your mum or your best friend and have a gossip over a cup of coffee. (You can read more about that here.) There’s the bits I’ve mentioned before about wedding dress shopping without my best friends and missing my best friends little girl growing up but that’s what you sign up to when moving to another country and you just have find ways to deal with it like sending a text or sorting a FaceTime call.

That said though we’ve literally lived the dream for the last 12 months and embracing expat life as much as possible – you have to when you’re given the opportunity! And the next 12 months are looking just as exciting – the Hotel Richter is re-opening!! Our first guests are already booked in with more already planning their visits throughout the year! We have a looooooong list of places we still want to explore (stay tuned on that one – I’m planning to write a bucket list VERY soon!) and of course, not forgetting the fact we’re getting married again!! Jeez, it’s gonna be another busy but bloody amazing year!!

Advertisements

Being an expat isn’t always fun.

So usually my posts are about all the exciting things about being an expat and the exploring we’ve been up to in our new country, all of which is amazing!! Yep we can immerse ourselves in the American culture and check out the 4th of July parade and things like Braves, Hawks and Falcons games. (The last one we haven’t done yet but it’s on the list!) Yep we can explore the delights of Georgia and head to places like Stone Mountain, the Georgia Aquarium, the mountains and Lake Lanier that we would never have seen if we’d have stayed in the UK. Yep we can explore further afield in this amazing country and jump on a plane to places like Chicago, Vegas and New York and be there in a couple of hours or we can drive down the road for a few hours (well about 8!) and we get to the beautiful beaches of Florida and chow down on some of the most amazing American food ever! And I can’t complain when most days the weather is like this:

IMG_4942

Just beautiful!

Now don’t get me wrong all of this is the best experience ever and for that I am so very grateful but sometimes it’s not all plain sailing!

First of all I’m 4,000 miles away from my family and friends and I miss them so much! Yeah we FaceTime as often as possible and it’s fab that we can see their faces and feel like we’re sitting at home and having a chat but it’s not the same as a big hug! Nothing beats a hug! And you can’t just pop round for a coffee or head out shopping together or go out for dinner and drinks – things I used to take for granted with them. It’s my mum’s birthday next weekend and the fact I can’t celebrate with her in person and take her out for dinner or something makes me sad. We’ll FaceTime instead but it’s just not the same.  It does mean though that the time when I am back at home is that little bit more special!

Then there’s my best friend in the whole wide world who just gave birth to her first baby. When I moved over here she was 5 months pregnant and the baby was due on my birthday. Luckily I already had a trip back to the UK planned as I was celebrating the big 3-0 and the beautiful Lily was born exactly on time – well half an hour before her due date so I got to spend some time with both the bump and the new baby. Now though I’m watching her grow up through pictures and Skype calls – all of which are amazing but again they’re not the same as a big hug! Like I said nothing beats a hug! I wish we could bob out for a coffee together, go shopping and have lots of baby cuddles. I can’t wait to get home at Christmas to see them both again – Lily is already so much bigger than when I last saw her!

Oh and not forgetting the wedding planning! Yep we’re planning a wedding in Germany whilst living in the United States with 3 bridesmaids in the UK, a best man in Germany and parents in both countries! Believe me it’s tough! We have to work out where to get suits for the men from bearing in mind they’re in 3 different countries! We have to work out how we’re going to get things to the wedding like a cake, the all important dress (that I’ve bought in the States when my mum was here but I didn’t have my Aunty and bridesmaids with me – something that made the experience a little sad because I always thought they’d be with me when I made that big decision) and our guests who, again, are travelling from 3 different countries. I have to find someone to do my hair and make up for the big day and I probably won’t be able to have a trial run – something a lot of brides take for granted. I need to go bridesmaid dress shopping with my bridesmaids but I’m in the US and they’re in the UK! Thankfully we’re getting a lot of help from our friends and family who are checking out things like cars and DJs for us, my bridesmaids keep sending pictures of potential dresses to look at when I’m back and my mum is making our cake! But we still have so much to pack into our trip back to Europe for Christmas and New Year!!

Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining at all and I don’t regret moving to the States but sometimes you just want your home comforts and especially your family and friends! They’ve been there for as long as I can remember and they always will be – I just definitely don’t get to see them as often as I’d like and I know that it’s technically my own fault and my choice but it’s still hard. Thankfully I have the German who keeps me smiling everyday and always manages to perk me up when I’m feeling a little down like the other day when he came home with a beautiful bunch of flowers for me!

Exploring: Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Literally. So spring sprung in Atlanta over the weekend much to the jealousy of my friends back in Europe! There was blue skies, plenty of wall to wall sunshine and temperatures hitting 75 degrees! Or if you live in Europe we’re talking 24/25 degrees!!! Amazing I know! This weather is what we call summer in England…and we only get that for about 2 weeks every year! We’ll get a couple of days here and there when people will rush home, get their shorts on and get out in the garden to try to get that all important tan…but will probably end up getting burnt!

Aaannnyway – we decided we should make the most of the gorgeous weather and take a break from building tables for our new home – even though it’s not like in England where you literally have to make the most of it because it will be gone until next year in a couple of days! So we donned our summer clothes and decided to take a walk in the park – Piedmont Park to be precise! It looks a little bit like this…

Beaut!

Beaut!

Now this park reminds me of Central Park in New York – funny that because it was actually re-designed by the same people who created Central Park back in the early 20th century! Bit like a history lesson this – stick with me…you never know you might learn something! So it’s a massive area – 189 acres to be precise and like New York’s Central Park it sits in the middle of the city between Midtown and Virginia Highlands. That means you get great pictures like the one above with the skyscrapers in the background!

Now the trip didn’t start off too well – it took us ages to park up! There’s a multi-storey car park on-site (yep the only place you would find a multi-storey car park at an actual park is in America!!) but it seems people aren’t that great at parking in the states! There was loads of spaces just a storey up on the second level but it took us awhile to get there!! We eventually parked up and headed out into the sunshine – bliss!

We set off exploring and began trying to sniff out some food! Yep our stomachs were rumbling and calling out for some nosh! Now in English parks there’s usually some sort of cafe type place where you can get a little snack…this doesn’t seem to be true in America! Tip: if you’re heading to Piedmont Park either eat before you go or take a picnic! We weren’t prepared! A picnic would have been a brilliant idea but we only thought about this as we were walking through the park watching everybody else tucking into theirs! Eventually we stumbled upon a couple of places near to one of the entrances! We ended up in here…

Yes I am a child...I took the picture purely for the name! And blog purposes of course!

Yes I am a child…I took the picture purely for the name! And blog purposes of course!

Yep a place called Willy’s! Had to be done! It did however serve some amazing burritos – we went for the BBQ pork version and it was heaven!! The nachos looked good too along with the pitchers of margaritas! I would definitely recommend a trip there!!

So with our bellies full we ventured back into the park to carry on the exploring and attempt to work off a little bit of that burrito! Now we could really focus on the park and not our rumbling stomachs! Piedmont Park isn’t just a huge piece of grass in the middle of the city…oh no no! It has a swimming pool that’s open in the summer months I guess – it was closed when we went despite the scorching temperatures! A lake where you can go fishing, trails all around the park to go walking, running, biking and inline skating, numerous different picnic areas, sports facilities including tennis courts, soccer (yep when I say this I actually mean football!) pitches, beach volleyball courts and several different fitness classes you can sign up to! Definitely something for everyone!

That though was all too much for us in the hot climate! Instead we strolled around the park, watched people throwing footballs, having picnics, playing games and generally chilling out – exactly what a park is made for! We also stumbled upon the doggy park – yep an area especially for our canine friends! There’s a park for big dogs and a separate area for smaller dogs! Now I’m not a dog person as anyone who knows me will know (in my defence I was pinned up by a big dog when I was about 7 years old – his face was literally barking face to face with mine with his paws above my shoulders on the wall – yep slightly scary and enough to put you off for life – much to the German’s annoyance – the boy wants a dog!) but even I thought it was a nice idea! The dogs all played together happily and made friends with each other – I didn’t hear one bark or growl from any of them! I still wouldn’t like to be in the actual doggy enclosure with them though!

At the moment the grass is kind of scorched in the park which ruins it a little bit but I’m thinking it will turn green pretty soon with the warm weather we’re having over here making the park look even prettier than it did on Saturday! It’s definitely somewhere we’ll be heading back to – next time we’ll prepare though and take a picnic!

IMG_2426

Tonight it’s time for more basketball action – this time we’re watching the Atlanta Hawks take on the Dallas Mavericks! Basketball seems to be our favourite American sport so far! (And is kind of easy for me to understand!!) Now the Hawks seem to be doing pretty well this season – they won last time we went so hopefully we’ll be their lucky charm again tonight! And yes, there probably will be another popcorn scenario!

Slam dunk da funk!

Nope I’m not talking that classic song by 5ive that we all loved when we were at school (well depending on your age of course!!)…I’m talking one of the biggest sports in America – Basketball!

Yep as part of our initiation into American life we figured we should head on down to the Philips Arena to watch the Atlanta Hawks. So the German did the boy thing and got some tickets and off we went to see the Atlanta Hawks take on the Philadelphia 76ers!

Now my only knowledge of basketball is the words ‘slam dunk’ and ‘shoot some hoops’ – generally picked up from American sitcoms and films and names such as Harlem Globetrotters, LA Lakers and New York Knicks – again picked up from American sitcoms and films along with those baseball caps that seem to be worn by all the cool kids – obviously not me! The German had a big job on his hands teaching me the rules of the game but it was a task he was willing to take on!

So we got to the Arena and walked down here…

It's all in the picture...

It’s all in the picture…

Yep a treasure trove of many, many, many different eateries and drinks places to stock you up before heading to your seat for the game including burgers, pretzels, pizza, more burgers, tacos, nachos, fried chicken, more burgers, and this…

IMG_2280

Bottomless, yes bottomless popcorn!! The tub was massive but we were allowed to fill it up as many times as we wanted – result! However after purchasing it I realised it was butter/salted popcorn – not my first choice but I was willing to give it a go! We also went on the hunt for beer – something the German found rather difficult! Now I’m not the biggest beer drinker so I’m happy to go for Bud/Miller/whatever flavour beer in the light version but the German – hell no he won’t touch the stuff! It appears it’s a big thing over here though and finding so-called ‘normal’ beer was proving difficult! We went to about 4 different food stalls before he finally found the beer he wanted – phew! Anyway off we trotted to find our seats loaded up with popcorn and beer!! The game was on!

As we got there a school choir was just starting to sing the national anthem – now as much as I love the American anthem and children, I now feel quite harsh saying they weren’t actually that good. (Yep I’m going to hell – they’re children after all!) Aaaaanyway – that ended, the cheerleaders came on and we were ready for game time…

IMG_2274

So the first quarter started. The German informed me that there are four quarters (obviously!) each lasting for 12 minutes. So I’m thinking well this is gonna be over quickly – surely not. And I was right – there are Time Outs, bits of entertainment in between each quarter, half time entertainment, little games, kiss cams, dance offs – you name it they have it in a basketball game! And it’s all fun! We had music that included Atlanta‘s very own Usher, Ceelo Green, LMFAO and organ versions of Rhianna (yep she really is everywhere!!) and the White Strips while the game was in play! It all felt very American (obviously Rachel – you’re in America!!) I suppose what I mean is it’s what you expect to happen at a basketball match – I suppose exactly what you see on the TV/in the movies etc!

Just shooting some hoops...

Just shooting some hoops…

So the actual game is really quick when it’s in play – the Hawks were losing to begin with but soon turned it around – The German told me that’s the beauty of basketball – the game can change really quickly! I learnt that a team has to shoot within 24 seconds of getting hold of the ball (there’s an amazing organ countdown that goes with this!!) they’re only allowed to be in the square around the net for 3 seconds at a time and if they shoot outside of the big semi-circle they get 3 points instead of 2! I was learning well!

So they game went on…the Hawks were kicking ass but sadly I missed some of the hoops/goals/points scored (I’m not too sure of the technical terms!!) because I was engrossed in this…

IMG_2281

Yep it would appear I had become slightly addicted to the buttery/salty popcorn taste sensation and was ploughing my way through the huge tub! I couldn’t stop shovelling it into my mouth – and yes I’ll admit it there were some popcorn spillage mishaps but I like to think everyone has these when eating popcorn yes? No? Just me? Ok we’ll forget I said that!!

So they game went on, the Kiss Cam came on – it panned around the audience and picked couples who had to kiss when they were on camera – the majority did but a couple avoided the situation! The Hawks carried on slam dunking and racking up the points and yes I carried on with the popcorn until this happened…

IMG_2286

Yep we demolished the whole thing!! I would like to point out though that we didn’t take advantage of the bottomless aspect of the tub and we only had the one! Makes it slightly better, yes? Alright we’re just fatties!!

Now all this happened before half time – yep we polished off the popcorn even before the half time entertainment! We watched the last 2 quarters in a popcorn induced haze – a lovely haze may I add but a haze all the same!! The Hawks were going for it and were well ahead going into the final quarter and at the end of the game it was victory to the Hawks!!! Final score Atlanta Hawks 107 : Philadelphia 76ers 96! Woooo! I like to think we were a good luck charm – we’ll see how long that lasts!!

Oh I forgot to mention this was one of my welcome to America presents from the German (Yep as mentioned before he’s definitely a keeper!!) along with where we went last night…

IMG_2294

The Masquerade. A small venue where bands play kind of intimate gigs – last night we saw these lovely people…

IMG_2302

Gaslight Anthem!! Now last time we saw this band we were at Leeds Festival – a massive venue! So to see them in such a small space and be so close to them was fab!!! Oh and they had many different English football scarves on stage with them and of course the guitarist wore his trademark St Pauli waistcoat – both the English and German bases ticked for us!! Wooo! Amazing gig – Loved it!